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WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning cleared to stand trial

Bradley Manning
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning AP/Grpahics Bank

To nobody's surprise, the Army has declared Pfc. Bradley Manning mentally competent to stand trial on a host of charges stemming from his alleged leaking of government secrets to WikiLeaks.

The lengthy process of reaching that conclusion is what kept Manning, 22, in near solitary confinement in the Marine brig at Quantico since last July. That brig is not a pre-trial confinement facility. It's a place where convicted criminals do hard time. But Manning was sent there in order to keep him in the Washington area, available to Army psychiatrists who would judge his competence to stand trial.

It took nine months for the psychiatrists to judge him mentally fit, mostly because it took months and months to grant them the security clearances necessary to be read in on a case involving half a million secret documents. The conditions of Manning's confinement at the Quantico brig were made worse by the fact that there had been a suicide there the year before, and his jailors weren't taking any chances, even though psychiatrists did not consider him a risk to take his life.

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So now Manning is out of solitary and living with other inmates in a very different place -a modern, medium-security facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He is likely to be there a long time before his case ever comes to trial. The same sort of problems involving classified documents and security clearances that slowed his psychiatric evaluation will also delay his trial.

And that's not including the Department of Justice's attempts to build a case against Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Manning would obviously be key to any prosecution of Assange, and the government almost surely would not want to give anything away by bringing Manning to trial before it finished trying to build a case against WikiLeak's co-founder.

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